Thursday, June 2, 2011

Do you really want more adventure? Be honest ...

"Adventure" is big in our society these days. Adventure sports. Adventure travel. Adventure races. Ask most people if they would like more adventure in their life and you will get a resounding "yes".

Ok. Sounds reasonable. But what IS adventure?

Well, the dictionary defines it as,
"an exciting or very unusual experience ... a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome."
Again, most people would agree with that definition at first blush. But, considering this very frankly, I would suggest that not many people are truly up for the "uncertain outcome".

When you sit down on a roller coaster you may have an adrenaline rush in store, but you can be pretty much certain of the outcome - a safe arrival back at the platform. Even something as seemingly risky as skydiving is only taken on after assuring ourselves as to the impeccability of the school's safety record ... a 99.9% success rate just doesn't cut it.

We are taught from a very young age to "look before you leap". And a valid lesson it is ... most of the time. 

Still, we pay billions of dollars every year to watch movies about people taking tremendous risks. Indiana Jones. James Bond. Captain Jack SparrowAnd many of us even seek out first-person "adventure" - going whitewater rafting, bungee jumping, even running with the bulls.

In truth, though, one needn't go far to find true adventure ... "It's a dangerous business... going out your door. You step onto the road, and there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”  Bilbo Baggins, LOTR

Life IS adventure. And most people, despite their claims to the contrary put an extraordinary amount of effort into minimizing exactly that! They seek to eliminate risk, and to maximize certainty. Back to Bilbo, "Adventures make one late for dinner." And when life DOES serve up a good dose of "hazard", as it almost always eventually will, they bemoan their fate - "why me??"

Personally, I tend to agree with William Feather,  an author who said “One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure.”

This philosophy has allowed me to open my own successful real estate brokerage. To run for federal office (unsuccessfully). To compete in The Death Race in three weeks (watch for race updates soon). These are adventures, "good and bad", that I have chosen. But we don't always get to choose how our life will unfold.

Here are some equally valid examples of adventure... Receiving a diagnosis of cancer. Being wrongfully imprisoned for 20 years. Declaring bankruptcy. Losing a leg in a car accident. Are any of these things we would choose? Of course not. But they are things that can happen. They are things that do happen. And then what? Do you choose to be a victim and live out your life defeated and bitter? Or do you choose that this is your adventure and approach it with passion and joy? It has already happened, remember. And it is only up to you what you do next.
“Adventure isn't hanging on a rope off the side of a mountain. Adventure is an attitude that we must apply to the day to day obstacles of life -- Facing new challenges, seizing new opportunities, Testing our resources against the unknown and in the process, Discovering our own unique potential.” John Amatt, Everest Expedition Leader, author.
But, for God's sake, don't wait for disaster to strike to start living adventurously! There is infinite adventure available to all of us every day. Anytime you try something new, there is adventure. Starting a business. Asking someone on a date. Trying a different restaurant. Learning a new sport. 

Yet, so many people won't even embark on these littlest of adventures. Paulo Coelho describes this is his beautiful book, The Zahir
"Slaves to a life they had not chosen, but which they had decided to live because someone had managed to convince them that it was all for the best. And so their identical days and nights passed, days and nights in which adventure was just a word in a book or an image on the television that was always on, and whenever a door opened, they would say: 'I am not interested. I'm not in the mood.' How could they possibly know if they were in the mood or not if they had never tried? But there was no point in asking; the truth was they were afraid of any change that would upset the world they had grown used to." 
I know that at this point I will have offended some people. I am definitely guilty of presenting just one view here. Not everyone needs an adrenaline-filled existence. In fact, many people are very happy and content and fulfilled living a life almost the opposite of what I am describing. And that is awesome. That is their adventure. And I will assume if you continue reading that you are not one of them.

In fact, you may even agree with Helen Keller, the blind and deaf author/activist who proclaimed, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”

A word that keeps coming up in these quotations is "change". Even 500 years BC, Heraclitus observed that "the only constant is change". The one thing you can be sure of in life is that it will keep changing and changing and changing. So what to do? Here are some great answers to that question ...
"Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else."  Tom Peters
"Remember the high board at the swimming pool? After days of looking up at it you finally climbed the wet steps to the platform. From there, it was higher than ever. There were only two ways down: the steps to defeat of the dive to victory. You stood on the edge, shivering in the hot sun, deathly afraid. At last you leaned too far forward, it was too late for retreat, and you dived. The high board was conquered, and you spent the rest of the day diving. Climbing a thousand high boards, we demolish fear, and turn into human beings." Richard Bach 
"Don't be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.What if they are a little coarse, and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice. Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Where am I going with all of this? I don't really know. I know that I am not going to live forever. I know that there is a lot I still want to do before I go. And I am probably writing this as a reminder to myself as much as anything else. A reminder that I get to actively, consciously choose every day anew how I am going to live my life.
"All men and women are born, live suffer and die; what distinguishes us one from another is our dreams, whether they be dreams about worldly or unworldly things, and what we do to make them come about... We do not choose to be born. We do not choose our parents. We do not choose our historical epoch, the country of our birth, or the immediate circumstances of our upbringing. We do not, most of us, choose to die; nor do we choose the time and conditions of our death. But within this realm of choicelessness, we do choose how we live."  Joseph Epstein
Still, life is not the only adventure... Aristotle pointed out that "To die will be an awfully big adventure." And, in the meantime, I will follow Webb Chiles' advice .. "Live passionately, even if it kills you, because something is going to kill you anyway."

(Speaking of living like you were dying, here is a beautiful list, compiled by a hospice nurse, of dying people's five most common regrets...)

As usual, it took me a while to get started typing and now there is no end to what I want to share on this subject. What got me off my ass today was this Note From The Universe that I received ...
"How adventurous would life be, John, if you were "challenge free"? If you had the perfect body, perfect self-esteem, everyone adored you, and you won the lottery every Sunday?
Now what if, painful as they may temporarily be, you could choose a life during which challenges might arise whenever your thinking needed expansion, on the sole condition that every one of them could be overcome no matter how daunting they may at first seem?
Everything makes you more,
Well, I have to wrap up somewhere, so, as Forrest Gump would say ...

Hopefully, reading this will help you be a bit less likely to reach the end of your life to realize, "Oh, if I had only known, if I had only been ready, our lives can really be the great adventure we so passionately want them to be. " Hortense Odlum


  1. You are an inspiring Adventurer!!!!

  2. LOVE IT!! Very Inspirational! Good Luck with the Death Race, my fellow Mud Mafia family member!

  3. So true, Johnny. I worked on a cruise line for 6 yrs, many adventures of sorts involved. Those in my small town would say, "How romantic, how could I do this?" I would say, "You start by leaving your home, family, pets, house plants for months at a time. You'll live in a room below sea level, smaller than your home bathroom, share it with a girl you just met and because you're the newbie, you'll get the top bunk and climb a ladder to get to bed."
    ~~I can't do that!! ~~
    Then you also won't get to know, really know the lovely people who crew these gargantuans, from so many countries, learn salsa from the Cuban guitarist, spend your birthday on a beach in Aruba, get lost in Naples or climb a giant rock in Santorini.
    People seem to want COMFORTABLE adventure. Does that even exist?